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What’s going on?

I’ve taken the last few weeks to reflect on my goals, make some adjustments to my habits, and try some new things.

I’ve also had quite a few indulgent weekends this summer that have left my pants a bit tight and my energy levels zapped. I hadn’t weighed myself in a LONG time, so I figured it was time. I wasn’t surprised to see that I had reached 160.5 lbs. I always said if I ever hit 160, it was time to make some changes. The difference this time was, I was not at all upset or disappointed. While it doesn’t really matter, for new readers to get an idea, my lowest weight was 144 and my “happy place” was 147.5.

I knew where it came from and I knew what I had to do to change it! Plus, I’ve found that being positive is the only way to live one’s life. Negativity will always drag you down and probably everyone around you too. So why bother?

Before I get in to this, let me issue a disclaimer: What I’m about to describe is working FOR ME. It may not be for you, since we are all so different in our genetic make-ups and lifestyles.  And it is certainly not meant to replace a doctor’s or nutritionist’s advice. This is just my story.

You may recall a few weeks back, I mentioned that Heather had inspired me to be more conscious of the sugars I was ingesting on a daily basis. If you haven’t read her post on sugar, you should do it now!

For longer than I can remember, my diet has been carb heavy, meaning it is the majority of the food I eat. That only increased when I became a runner in late 2007. I read in a magazine once that my body type and shape (apple) can actually have a hard time handling sugar (even in whole grain form) and I was told by my doctor that this could impact hormone levels and even have an effect on future fertility, but I didn’t want to listen, until now. But it is not only “carbs” that create problems for me — it’s those added sugars in things like yogurt, bars, and other processed foods that my body just doesn’t handle very well.

Once I was out of fruit, Z bars, dried apricots, and a few other things, I began a new, lower sugar lifestyle. I’m focusing on eating mostly vegetables, protein, fat, a little bit of fruit and a little bit of grains. Now, I have another confession to make.

Last week, I started counting calories again. Not to limit myself, but to be observant of my body’s true needs and as a form of research if you will. The most interesting thing I have learned is that I do not eat the same amount everyday. In fact, I operate on an every other day fluctuation of sorts. For example, one day I will have 1400, the next day 1700, the day after that 1300 and so on. Now, I know they say never to eat less than 1400 calories a day but I swear on those days I was completely satisfied and did not want to eat just because I had the calories “reserved”.

Note: Earlier this year, I challenged myself to stop weighing and stop counting calories. These were both very positive behavior changes and I feel, are responsible for my new outlook on both things even though I am now doing them again.

Before this, I estimated that I ate around 1800-2000 calories every day. While this works for some people, I believe that my current body composition, activity level and history of weight loss does not allow for this much. The thing about losing weight is that the more you lose, the less you need. A girl who weighs 160 lbs — but always has — needs more calories per day than I do since I used to weigh 225. I never ate 1800 calories when I was losing weight before, so why am I surprised that eating that much caused me to gain?

I had been making myself eat that much (and sometimes more) even though my body nor my appetite required it.

One thing people assume is that we need a certain amount of food groups in our everyday diets. I was one of those people, thinking I had to eat so many servings of fruit, 3 glasses of milk, so many ounces of grains, etc. I asked Heather if she felt her vitamin and mineral levels were suffering because of lower fruit/carb intake and she gave me some of her wisdom as to the vitamin content in vegetables as well as taking a supplement where you see yourself deficient.

I tracked my eats for one day in order to determine where I stood and I noticed that the only place I was really missing out was Vitamin E, so I try to add wheat germ to my oatmeal and I’m considering taking a supplement soon too. I was surprised how well I still met all the other requirements! I also already take a calcium + vitamin D + magnesium and zinc supplement on the days I can remember to (this is in addition to my multi-vitamin which I do take most days).

Another way I think many people go wrong is that they think lowering sugar in their diet means eating a lot of processed “sugar free” foods (which are not always good for you) and/or using foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, etc. I will admit this was a concern of mine since I had previously cut out most artificial sweeteners in my diet already.

How can you avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners/ingredients at the same time? It’s actually quite simple.

For the past week now…

I get grains and fruit from breakfast consisting of oats (made with 1/2 milk 1/2 water), a sliced banana, and a spoonful of PB (all natural!) on most days. I’ve also been able to reduce the portion sizes a bit and I’m trying to get out of the mentality that you have to eat a certain amount of something, instead of listening to your body and your fullness (something I picked up from reading French Women for All Seasons). There have been also been a couple of days when I’ve had eggs or an omelet (with toast) for breakfast. 

I drink one cup of coffee every day and I do use creamer, which doesn’t have the best ingredients (I do use a no trans fat kind) but if it is my one and only vice right now, I don’t mind that at all. Plus it makes drinking coffee a little bit more fun 😉

When I need mid-morning snacks (which is not every day now), I’ve been working with hard boiled eggs, veggies with hummus or PB, and a few other smaller, more protein dense snacks. I used to eat a lot of bars, both with and without protein, and those hardly ever felt like they held off my hunger. In fact, bars like the Z bars, with over 10 grams of sugar and very little protein (not to mention most of them include chocolate) only caused my hunger to grow.

Lunches have been a lot of salads, which weren’t big on my list before, but now that I have learned from Heather and many other bloggers out there, to make bigger salads with more veggies, protein (beans, etc.), and other ingredients, salads have become not only fun but quite satisfying. Never again will I eat a wimpy salad with just dressing. In fact, I’ve hardly used salad dressing, choosing instead to rely on hummus, which is a magical food in it’s own right.

I used to get the worst 2 or 3 p.m. slumps at work and those have completely disappeared. I had read before that excluding carbs from your lunch could help with this and I see now that whoever said that was right. I used to eat bread (or pasta or crackers) and fruit with lunch every day! I have also noticed now that I am more productive throughout the day and in a better mood when I get home from work, which I now makes my husband and dog happier campers too.

Afternoon snacks are pretty much the same as mid-morning, but the best one for me is usually mixed nuts with their protein + satisfying fat content, they keep me perked up and satisfied throughout the rest of the afternoon. I also sometimes like to have a cup of tea either between lunch and a snack or between my snack and going home for the day. While mid-morning snacks are not always required, I have yet to have a day go by where I didn’t need something to hold me between lunch and dinner (which is a longer period of time usually).

Dinners have been here and there, mostly protein and veggies. But a few times, I’ve had veggie pizza, beans and barley, or other meals including carbs and I feel okay doing that because I have them under control the rest of the day. After dinner, I am consistently full and not having thoughts going through my head about hitting up the pantry for another snack because dinner was not enough.

My sugar demons are leaving me!

For dessert, I have been eating mostly dark chocolate in controlled portions. Every now and then, I’ll have a spoonful of peanut butter. I also love to drink a cup of tea at night to relax me before bed. Gone are the days of eating multiple bowls of cereal, ice cream, or endless spoonfuls of Nutella or Dark Chocolate Dreams after dinner. Those things are not bad themselves, but my ability to control myself around them had become troublesome.

I do not feel deprived at all. In fact, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to eat sugary foods, my body does not want them! I drink lots of water, eat when I am hungry, don’t when I am not and stop eating when I am full, not when the plate is empty. Or if I’m still hungry, I eat more. Every day is not the same.

I’m also happy to say I plan to start blogging more regularly from now on. When I had taken breaks before, it was mostly because I was not happy with what I was eating or I felt like I was in a rut. I also think it is related to my energy because I hardly “felt” like blogging most days. I’m finally back to a place where I look forward to blogging again and I’m happy to be doing it.

If I wasn’t able to workout at work, with a partner who holds me accountable, I probably would’ve skipped that a lot too. Thank goodness it never got to that point!

My exercise this past week or so has been the usual, lots of strength training and cardio sessions with a few Yoga Downloads here and there. The intensity has remained the same and the time for the most part (30-60 minutes per day). Even though you could say my diet is now lower in carbohydrates, my workouts are not suffering at all. In fact, I think they are better now than they have ever been. I plan to start training for 5K’s again in September, so we will see if I am impacted at all then.

I feel great. My skin is clearing up (unexpected side effect). I’m sleeping better. I’m having more fun. I feel happier. My pants are already loosening. Life is good.

Thanks for reading if you have made it this far. I feel really good about where things are going with my new way of eating. Once again, let me just say this is me. What works for me may not work for you, I know that from trying to do many things other people have done for years. I know my body now and I listen to her when she tells me something ain’t right. I hope you do the same for you 🙂